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Special feature

How national entries in the first month of the season stack up

One month of the national racing season has already been completed and, while several clubs have yet to get their new campaigns going in earnest (the Historic Sports Car Club and Vintage Sports-Car Club are among those beginning this weekend, while the 750 Motor Club is hosting its first two-day fixture of 2024), there is now enough data to take a meaningful look at some of the early year entry numbers

Swift won 0002.JPG

The headline figures are certainly very encouraging. Almost two-thirds (64%) of the English club series with comparable data have either attracted a larger grid or one the same size as their 2023 average for their opening event.

Considering all the pre-season talk about rising prices having a negative impact, and there being plenty of doom and gloom in some quarters, it is undeniably a good start. Club bosses are always nervous as a new year starts – never quite knowing what to expect and whether they have booked the right amount of track time for their series.

“It’s always a hunch and crystal ball when you’re planning the next year,” admits one, especially considering dates need to be locked in long before the current season concludes.  

Plus: How Ingram is seeking to reclaim the BTCC crown from Sutton

But, with this optimism, it is important to take those March and April grid sizes with a pinch of salt. It’s regularly the case that opening rounds secure larger entries than some of those later in the year as drivers are eager to get back on track after a long winter and the coffers have been replenished.

As enthusiasm and finances may dwindle during a campaign, numbers can start to tail off. It is also worth noting that all of these 2024 figures are based on events held at Silverstone, Donington Park, Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Oulton Park and Castle Combe. They are all traditionally well-supported venues and therefore the lower numbers that can be found at the likes of Cadwell Park and Croft have not been factored in.

Nevertheless, it’s still been great to see so many grids pushing 40 cars or more, with some fantastic battles having already been recorded in Autosport’s pages this year. 

Among the success stories so far have been the British Racing & Sports Car Club-administered Clubsport Trophy, Modified Fords and C1 Endurance Series contests, which have attracted opening fields of an impressive 45, 43 and 38 cars, respectively.

Trucks take to the track at Brands Hatch

Trucks take to the track at Brands Hatch

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Among the British Automobile Racing Club portfolio, the Caterham Roadsport and Seven 270R divisions each boasted 41 cars at Snetterton last weekend, while the Classic Sports Car Club’s bustling curtain-raiser featured large Swinging Sixties, Tin Tops and Slicks Series numbers. Then the BRSCC’s Audi TT Cup Racing and the 750 Motor Club’s Ma7da championships have enjoyed some of the largest percentage increases. 

However, 36% of comparable categories featuring a decline in popularity is still a sizeable chunk. And it’s concerning that some of the UK’s most notable and prestigious series are in that pool.

For example, British Endurance Championship numbers have been noticeably down, while the British Truck Racing opener featured just a disappointing dozen of the behemoths for its Easter Brands event – worth remembering that it was only a few years ago that the Division 1 and Division 2 trucks justifiably had standalone grids.

Autosport will closely monitor all of these championships and, if the trend continues, explore some of the specific factors in the coming weeks and months

Then, TCR UK has also slumped and the British GT-supporting Ginetta GT Championship achieved a meagre 11 cars for its Oulton opener. In addition, the once unrelenting and seemingly exponential rise in Mazda MX-5 popularity appears to be over, with both BRSCC and MotorSport Vision Racing categories for the Japanese sportscars having dipped compared to last year.

Autosport will closely monitor all of these championships and, if the trend continues, explore some of the specific factors in the coming weeks and months. 

Equipe Classic Racing is another of the organisers to have had a modest start to 2024, with its new F2 Atlantic offering failing to get into double figures at Brands last month. However, racing such single-seaters in the colder months is not necessarily attractive and bosses are confident of entries picking up as we move into what should be warmer times.

There are other perennial problems that can stymie early-season numbers, such as the classic ‘my car is not ready’ excuse, which undeniably plays a part in some cases. The CSCC has also taken the decision to write to all of its members following some criticism of shared grids at Donington, explaining the delicate financial situation and how it is more important than ever that each second of track time is maximised. 

The Slick Series prepare to race at Donington

The Slick Series prepare to race at Donington

Photo by: Mick Walker

So, overall, it is far too early to leap to any conclusions. There are some very positive signs, and some slightly more concerning, based on the first 13 English circuit racing meetings of 2024.

It is inevitable there are winners and losers, but it’s perhaps no surprise to see that some of the largest grids are once again reserved for the low-cost endurance categories that offer such good value for money and close racing.

Yet, for the sake of the industry as a whole, it would be a fantastic result if that two-thirds proportion of series either growing or maintaining their 2023 numbers can continue. At a time of ongoing uncertainty, it would be the ultimate vote of confidence.

Autosport will keep track of entry numbers across the season

Autosport will keep track of entry numbers across the season

Photo by: Steve Jones

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